LIVE: Blotto Records Reunion @ Central Park’s Music Haven, 7/17/11

The Penny Knight Band and the Amazing Rob
The Penny Knight Band and the Amazing Rob (photos by Stanley Johnson)

Sunday was a good news/bad news night, kicking off the annual free summer concert series at the Music Haven in Schenectady.

The bad news was that Broadway Blotto – Blotto’s guitarist, vocalist and songwriter – was ill, and Blotto was forced to cancel their performance.

The good news was that back in their heyday Blotto put together a surprisingly strong roster of talent for their own Blotto Records, and four of Blotto’s labelmates reunited and took the stage for a musically diverse but uniformily strong concert.

First up was the Amazing Rob & John Band, who haven’t performed together since, well, as guitarist-vocalist Rob Mathews put it, “I’m sure the year was 19-something.” With F. Lee Harvey Blotto provided the big beat, Rob & John (Foldy) dished up a short sparkling set of ’80s power-pop and, of course, their classic “Ronald Reggae.”

With four of their original members in the spotlight, the Sharks kept things hopping and added some sweet horns to the mix, courtesy of saxman Tom D’Ambrose and trombonist Jeff Roberts. Keyboardist Mike Kelley – who also plays in Blotto – was in fine voice, as he led the band through a half-hour of nuggets, including the rousing “Arm in Arm” and the funky “Rehabilitation Blues,” which found drummer Bob Assini playing spoons and Roberts switching to tuba. The blues was also bolstered by the contributions of Sarge Blotto on harmonica and Bowtie Blotto on banjo.

Johnny Rabb – the only act of the evening that’s still playing regularly on the Nippertown music scene – simply smoked the show, churning out classic rock & roll and rockabilly abetted by guitarslinger Scotty Mac and the Blotto rhythm section of bassist Clyde Blotto and drummer F. Lee Harvey. “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” indeed.

The Penny Knight Band moved up into the headlining slot without a problem, kicking off their set with a tribute to the ailing Broadway Blotto as Knight wailed through a muscular rendition of his “Jump Start My Heart.” Bassist Tony Jones and guitarist Richard Parks – the other original members of the band and the main songwriters – kept the rockin’ hard and heavy. They even debuted a brand new song by guitarist Bob Boyer. And, yes, although Knight spent most of the show up front at the microphone, she did slide behind the drums for a rave-up finale on “Blue Angel.”

And for those disappointed in Blotto’s cancellation, be on the lookout for the announcement of another Blotto reunion in September…

Review by Roger Houston
Photographs by Stanley Johnson
Additional photograph by Al Goldberg

Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “The Penny Knight Band members live in five different cities and reunited via websites, but they played the most unified and impressive set of the night. If Johnny Rabb and his Jailhouse Rockers looked like the guys Baby Boomers’ moms warned their daughters about, Knight’s crew could have been accountants at a rock fantasy camp. With Knight’s powerhouse voice at the center of their proud, loud, retro sound, they projected arena-rock muscle through crisp ensemble playing, electric might and songs built to blast. Everything went big, then sometimes bigger, even the ballad ‘You Put the Fire Back in My Heart’ about love’s return. They hit with prog-rock complexity, but also big soulfulness, an impressive return to action by a band dormant for nearly three decades.”

The Sharks (photos by Stanley Johnson)
The Sharks (photos by Stanley Johnson)
Clyde Blotto and Johnny Rabb (photo by Al Goldberg)
Clyde Blotto and Johnny Rabb (photo by Al Goldberg)
And the All-Star Jam: Sarge Blotto, Johnny Rabb and Tom D'Ambrose (photo by Stanley Johnson)
And the All-Star Jam: Sarge Blotto, Johnny Rabb and Tom D'Ambrose (photo by Stanley Johnson)

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